- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 14, 2009

HOUSTON (AP) - With two days left in the regular season, the playoff possibilities in the Western Conference remain totally unresolved.

But the Houston Rockets have simplified it for themselves after routing New Orleans 86-66 on Monday night.

Win their final regular-season game in Dallas on Wednesday and they’re Southwest Division champions. They could also have a chance to grab the No. 2 seed in the West.

“Right now, we have a chance for everything,” said Luis Scola, who grabbed 15 rebounds. “We’ve got only one game ahead and if we win, not only will we have home-court advantage, but also we will have won the division and we can go all the way up to the two (seed).”

Yao Ming scored 22 points for the Rockets, who moved one win away from their first division championship since 1993-94. But in the jumbled West, Houston could also slip to fifth place _ and lose home-court advantage in the first round _ with a loss to the Mavericks.

“We just need to keep winning because nothing is secure right now,” said Yao, who showed no ill effects from a sore right foot that kept him out of Houston’s last game. “We still need to win one more game because there is the possibility of us finishing with the second seed, which would be even better.”

The Hornets, meanwhile, blew a chance to clinch the No. 6 seed in the West. Dallas beat Minnesota on Monday night to equal New Orleans’ 49-32 record _ but the Hornets hold the tiebreaker.

Still, Coach Byron Scott was puzzled by his team’s lackluster effort in Houston.

“It is very disappointing,” Scott said. “I think most of our guys in that locker room think that it’s like a light switch, that you can just turn on when the playoffs start. It’s not going to happen, it’s just not.”

David West had 14 points and 10 rebounds and Chris Paul scored nine points and had seven assists for the Hornets, who’ve lost five of their last seven.

The Hornets, who close the season in San Antonio on Wednesday, shot 35 percent (28-of-81) from the field and their 66 points were a season low. Houston also held a 46-37 rebounding edge.

“We got smashed,” Paul said. “It was embarrassing. They beat us in just about every way possible.”

Nuggets 118, Kings 98

At Denver, J.R. Smith’s career-high 45 points and franchise-best 11 3-pointers helped the Nuggets clinch the Northwest Division title and home-court edge in a playoff series for the first time in 21 years.

Carmelo Anthony had 21 points, nine assists and nine rebounds in 32 minutes against Sacramento, which was led by Ike Diogu’s career-best 32 points.

Cavaliers 117, Pacers 109

At Indianapolis, Cleveland clinched the NBA’s best record and home-court advantage throughout the playoffs behind LeBron James’ 37 points.

Danny Granger scored 38 points for Indiana.

Bulls 91, Pistons 88

At Auburn Hills, Mich., Ben Gordon made a tiebreaking layup with 15 seconds left, and the Bulls locked the Pistons into the No. 8 seed in the East.

The Pistons (39-42) will face Cleveland in the first round of the playoffs. Chicago (41-40) leads Philadelphia by a half-game for the sixth seed.

Mavericks 96, Timberwolves 94

At Dallas, Dirk Nowitzki keyed a late fourth-quarter rally with great plays on both ends of the court, then Jason Terry hit an 18-foot jumper from the right side with 0.2 seconds left.

Nowitzki scored 34 points and had nine rebounds.

Jazz 106, Clippers 85

At Salt Lake City, Carlos Boozer had 20 points and 13 rebounds, and the Jazz snapped a three-game skid to keep alive their slim hopes of climbing out of the No. 8 seed in the West.

Marcus Camby had 17 points and 10 rebounds for the Clippers, who have lost eight of nine.

Trail Blazers 113, Thunder 83

At Portland, Ore., Travis Outlaw had 21 points as a last-minute starter and the Trail Blazers built a 35-point lead. The Blazers (53-28) have not won as many games since they went 59-23 in the 1999-2000 season.

Spurs 101, Warriors 72

At Oakland, Calif., Tony Parker scored 17 points and Tim Duncan added 16 points and 13 rebounds before both stars sat out the fourth quarter, and the Spurs kept pace with Houston atop the Southwest.

Drew Gooden had 20 points and 15 rebounds in his hometown for the Spurs, who won their third straight to pull even at 53-28 with the Rockets and Portland.

Anthony Randolph had career highs of 24 points and 16 rebounds for the Warriors.

Raptors 97, Wizards 96

At Washington, Chris Bosh made the go-ahead 3-pointer with 9.9 seconds left and finished with 25 points and 15 rebounds for Toronto.

Caron Butler scored 28 points and Antawn Jamison had 23 for Washington in its 62nd loss. The Wizards must win on Wednesday in Boston to avoid tying their franchise record for losses, set in 2000-01.

Nets 91, Bobcats 87

At East Rutherford, N.J., Jarvis Hayes hit two late 3-pointers in a 37-second span and rookie Brook Lopez added 18 points and a career-best 20 rebounds for the Nets.

Raymond Felton had 19 points for Charlotte.

Bucks 98, Magic 80

At Milwaukee, Richard Jefferson scored 24 points and the Bucks beat an Orlando team missing Dwight Howard and two other starters _ the Magic’s third straight loss to a subpar opponent.

Suns 119, Grizzlies 110

At Phoenix, Shaquille O’Neal hit four late field goals and rookie Robin Lopez tied his career high with 14 points, helping the Suns to their eighth consecutive home victory.

O’Neal led Phoenix’s well-balanced attack with 19 points. Hakim Warrick, who hit his first 10 field goal attempts, tying a franchise record for one game, and Rudy Gay led Memphis with 26 points apiece.

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